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Strengthening and Building Bonds

A Letter from Jim and Jodi McGill, serving in Niger and South Sudan

July 2020

Write to Jim McGill
Write to Jodi McGill

Individuals: Give online to E200385 for Jim and Jodi McGill’s sending and support

Congregations: Give to D506718 for Jim and Jodi McGill’s sending and support

Churches are asked to send donations through your congregation’s normal receiving site (this is usually your presbytery)

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In the middle of March, PC(USA) requested all mission personnel, if possible, to return to the U.S., but by the time we got the news, land and air borders in Niger were closed. The capital, Niamey, was suddenly locked down. At the time, Jim and his colleague were training evangelists four hours away. Judge Issaka Moussa, the Eglise Evangelique Republique du Niger (EERN) liaison for external relations, quickly brought them back to Niamey. Suddenly, we were all working and studying at home during the hottest time of the year.

After our April newsletter, the Niger U.S. Embassy organized one final repatriation flight. We had 24 hours to inform the Embassy if we planned to take the flight, and two days to prepare to leave. After many hours of prayer and conversations, our family, minus Jim, put our names on the list. Although we knew it was the right decision, we wished we could say we felt at peace. We didn’t. The feelings were horrible—leaving work, school, friends, and colleagues without saying goodbye because of time and COVID restrictions—leaving Jim behind for an indeterminate amount of time so he could continue his COVID-19 prevention work, and feeling like we were abandoning everyone and everything we had been working towards. Following God doesn’t always mean you like what you are being guided to do.

As for Jim’s work, while the pandemic disrupted all aspects of life, it provided opportunities for the EERN and its Water, Sanitation & Hygiene (WASH) Section to share Christ’s presence with many Nigeriens who normally would not interact with the Church. The EERN applied for and received a Solidarity Grant from World Mission and Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) to combat COVID-19 and to provide:

— Trainings at the Simple, Market-based, Affordable, Repairable Technologies (SMART) Centre of local female leaders from Basra who were taught how to stay safe from the virus. These included materials and instructions on safely sharing WASH items such as handwashing facilities, soap, and masks with their immediate neighbors.

— Production and distribution of water filters to community members who were more likely to suffer serious consequences should they become infected with COVID-19. Families with members over 70 years, or with diabetes or other chronic diseases were prioritized. Although water filtration does not directly influence COVID transmission, it could prevent those more susceptible to acute infection from multiple simultaneously challenging diseases. These community members were invited to come to the Centre to collect a locally produced filter and be trained in its use and maintenance.

— Production and distribution of handwashing facilities for every class at the EERN school in Niamey. The handwashing station’s design was modified with a foot pedal to control the flow of water, so that hands were not needed to turn the tap off.

— Distribution of a month’s supply of maize and rice to the most vulnerable, including families of day laborers who could not work during the time of crisis. Families were chosen by a team including the traditional local leader, the local Imam, and the local pastor.

During the lockdown, Jim built an all-accessible latrine at the EERN school with Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) facilities that included a washing sink, drying lines, waste chute to bins for the incinerator, and most importantly a large mirror. There have often been questions about whether the expense of building a special latrine for the girls is worth it. The WASH Section of the EERN believes that if a specially designed latrine will help girls to stay in school, then it is definitely worth the investment.

With the internet and a new virtual culture, Jodi is able to continue her work as a nurse educator at the nursing school in Niamey by preparing the curriculum for her courses. At the same time, she also prepares to share news about Niger with congregations. We are praying for Jim’s possible return in August when the Niger airport may reopen and rejoicing at the high school graduation of our two daughters, Salome and Selina. Please do share with us how we may pray for you as individuals, congregations, and families.

Yes, virtual communication is not the same as being face-to-face. We normally use Interpretation Assignment to physically visit as many churches as possible, to express our gratitude for the prayers and financial support we receive. However, we may actually be able to do this more effectively virtually, so please contact us at mcgilljj8@gmail.com to schedule conversations, meetings and presentations. Feel free to send us questions. We look forward to chatting with you via Zoom, Skype,WhatsApp or email.

We thank you deeply.

Jodi and Jim and family


Creative_Commons-BYNCNDYou may freely reuse and distribute this article in its entirety for non-commercial purposes in any medium. Please include author attribution, photography credits, and a link to the original article. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDeratives 4.0 International License.

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